Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, has forcefully rejected efforts by international powers to bring hostilities in the north of the country to an end.
Abiy’s statement on Wednesday came hours before a deadline for the surrender of the leadership of the restive region of Tigray expires, after which federal troops have been ordered to attack its capital, Mekelle.
There are growing calls for mediation to halt a conflict that threatens to destabilise a swath of east Africa. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people, have died so far, and many more forced to flee their homes.
The leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party in the region, said on Tuesday his people were “ready to die” defending their homeland, rejecting the prime minister’s Sunday night demand that they lay down their arms within 72 hours.
Abiy launched the military campaign against the TPLF on 4 November, accusing it of attacking federal military camps in the northern region and seeking to destabilise the country.
The 44-year-old leader, who won the Nobel peace prize last year, said the TPLF had orchestrated a “spate of violent attacks” across Ethiopia to “frustrate the democratisation process”.
“A fundamental element of the international legal order is the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states … We respectfully urge the international community to refrain from any unwelcome and unlawful acts of interference,” Abiy said.